File Name: ancient indian history and culture .zip
- The Significance of Ancient Indian History
- Indian Culture and Heritage (223)
- History of Ancient India: Complete Study Material
The Significance of Ancient Indian History
After going through this lesson you will come to know the story of your country, which started many centuries ago. History is no longer treated as merely a study of dates and events and that too largely only political events. Its scope has been widened to include many aspects of life. These include the study of patterns of life, which we call culture. Culture was once defined as that which relates to art, architecture, literature and philosophy.
Now it includes all the activities of a society. Therefore the emphasis of history has shifted from the study of only the upper groups of society to all levels of society. It now covers information on kings and statesmen as well as on ordinary people who make history. It includes the study of art and architecture, of the evolution of langauges in India, literature and religion.
Now we do not look only at what was happening at the aristocratic level of society. We also try to reconstruct the interests and concerns of people at lower levels. This makes history more interesting and helps us understand our society for better.
The people that went into the making of our society, at both the aristocratic and the ordinary level, were not all indigenous to India, to start with. Many came from other regions and settled down in India. They married locally, intermixed with the exisiting people and became a part of Indian society.
Our society, therefore, has a rich heritage of different kinds of people. Because of this large variety of people, there has been an equally large variety of religions, langauges, and customs in our country. The correct understanding of history depends on two things. One is a careful and critical use of source material given to us by historians defending certain statements which should be decided on rational analysis. Secondly, historical events have causes and these causes should be fully examined.
Above all, even the past must be subjected to a critical analysis. It is only in this way that historical knowledge will advance. The past of India goes back several thousand years.
We learn about it from the evidence which our ancestors have left behind. For the near past we have written and printed records.
For times when printing was not known, there are records written by hand on paper. But earlier still, when paper was not made, records were written on dried palm leaves, the bark of the birch tree and plates of copper and in some cases, they were inscribed on large rocks, pillars, stones walls or tablets made of clay and stone.
There was a time still further back when even writing was unknown. Evidence of neolithic habitation dating as far back as BC has been found in Mehrgarh in Baluchistan. However, the first notable civilization flourished in India around BC in the north western part of the Indian subcontinent, covering a large area. The civilization is referred to as the Harappan civilization.
Most of the sites of this civilization developed on the banks of Indus, Ghaggar and its tributaries. The culture associated with the Harappan civilization is the first known urban culture in India. The Harappans built the earliest cities complete with town planning, sanitation, drainage system and broad well-laid roads.
They built double storied houses of burntbricks each one of which had a bathroom, a kitchen and a well. The walled cities had other important buildings such as the Great Bath, Grannaries and Assembly Halls.
Agriculture was the main occupation of the Harappans who were living in rural areas. Those living in the cities carried on internal and external trade and developed contacts with other civilizations such as Mesopotamia.
They were excellent potters. Various types of utensils, toys, seals, figurines have been excavated from different sites. Harappans also had the technical knowledge of metals and the process of alloying. The bronze sculpture of a dancing girl found in Mohenjodaro testifies the sculptural skills and aesthetic sense of the Harappans. Shell, ivory, bone and faience were used as material for different crafts and objects.
Lothal was a dockyard situated in Dholaka Taluk of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. It was also a well planned wall city. It was an important centre of sea trade with the western world. Another important town in Gujarat was Dhaulavira while Kalibangam was in Rajasthan. It appears that they worshipped plants and animals and the forces of nature. They worshipped a male god resembling Lord Shiva of later times and a mother goddess among others. They probably believed in life after death and also in charms and spells.
Seals engraved with animal figures like the humped bull, elephant and rhinocerous suggest that these animals were considered sacred. Harappans knew how to write and most of their seals contain some form of script.
But unfortunately no one has yet been able to decipher that script. As a result, our knowledge of the Harappan civilization is based on the archaeological evidence alone. The figures of men and women on various seals found in the excavations reveal that the people knew the art of spinning and weaving. They were perhaps the first people to cultivate cotton. A large number of Indus seals found in Mesopotamia which indicated of a possible trade between the Indus valley and Mesopotamian civilization.
By BC the Harappan civilization began declining. However, we do not know the exact reasons why this happened. This culture came to be known as the Aryan culture.
There were significant differences between this culture and the culture which preceded it. Aryans settled on the banks of rivers Indus Sindhu and Saraswati which is now non existent. They composed many hymns in honour of the gods and goddesses they worshipped. The word veda means knowledge of the sacred spiritual knowledge. These vedas were considered infallible as they imparted the highest spiritual knowledge.
Initially the Vedas were transmitted orally. Since our knowledge of the early Aryans is based on these Vedas, the culture of this period is referred to as the Vedic Culture. Scholars divide the vedic period into the earlier and later Vedic period. The earlier is represented by the Rig Veda while the latter by all other Vedic literature including the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads.
Two epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and the Puranas, though compiled much later, also throw light on the life and society of an earlier period. For this period archaeological evidence has also been found in some areas of Uttar Pradesh. Rig Veda contains about hymns in praise of Indra who is described as a destroyer of cities and there are hymns in praise of God Agni.
Do you know that Agni is looked upon as an intermediary between gods and humans? The family was the smallest social unit; several families kula made a village grama and several villages formed a vis. A number of villages formed a tribe or jana which was ruled by a chief called rajan. His chief function was to protect the tribe from external attack and maintain law and order. He was assisted by the members of two councils called sabha and samiti.
Another important social institution of the time was the system of chaturashrama or the division of life span into four distinct stages i. However it should be noted that these stages were not applicable to women or to the people of lower varnas. Women were respected by the society, enjoyed freedom, had access to education and were often free to choose their partners through swayamvara.
Purdah and sati was not prevalent. The ultimate aim of life was to attain moksha or salvation through the pursuit of dharma, artha and kama. Karma or performance of duty without any expectation or return was preached in the Bhagavad Gita. The early Vedic people worshipped forces of nature and personified them as gods and goddesses. Yajna sacrifice was performed along with chanting of Vedic hymns. People poured ghee clarified butter and other ingredients into the fire to invoke the blessings of gods.
Agni or fire was looked upon as an intermediary between Gods and humans.
Indian Culture and Heritage (223)
Don't have an account? Many races and tribes intermingled in early India. A significant attribute of ancient Indian culture has been the commingling of cultural elements from the north and south, and from the east and west. Ancient India also saw the birth of Brahmanism or Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism, but all these cultures and religions intermingled and interacted. There was also an unusual type of social system which developed in India. The relevance of the past ancient Indian history to the present is shown.
History of Ancient India: Complete Study Material
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John W. Spellman, Indian Feudalism: C. By Ram Sharan Sharma.
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